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NBOP’s Deep Democracy Builds Civic Engagement, Neighbor By Neighbor

In April, NBOP leaders kicked off our Deep Democracy initiative in Petaluma with a teach-in and day of canvassing out in the community. Every weekend in May, organizers and leaders will hit the streets, knock and doors and start building relationships with neighbors to take civic action.


In this brief interview, we chatted with Kimi Barbosa, the Deep Democracy lead organizer about this year’s campaign.


Q. WHAT IS DEEP DEMOCRACY ALL ABOUT? Deep Democracy is the civic engagement arm of the North Bay Organizing Project. It's the fundamental idea that we must forge deep relationships with our neighbors and community members, to identify what is at stake for us, and make sure we can stand up for our collective liberation.

This is more than your average voter turnout initiative. We're not here for a transaction. We are here for the long run, to take back the power that rightfully belongs to us; communities of color, working class, laborers, youth, and our elders. All of us, members of the new American majority.

We're door-knocking regularly, we're listening to our neighbors, we're seeing what they're struggling with, their joys in order to build the Sonoma County that we want to see. Specifically, we reach out to folks, who have been historically removed from decision-making processes.

Disenfranchisement is a very intentional, systemic problem where folks of color, single mamas and trans nonbinary folks aren't invited to the discussion. We are reinvigorating community engagement and civic engagement. We say "civic engagement" because not everyone can vote. If you're a parolee, if you have a felony or if you don't have the correct documentation, you aren't able to vote –– but you are still able to participate civically. Together, we want to reignite that flame in the community to participate civically for a better future for us all – not just for the wealthy.

Q. WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR LAUNCH EVENT? Through the pandemic, the majority of our outreach and scope has been in this cyberspace. Our leaders haven't had an opportunity to safely engage with our community face-to-face. Even though the pandemic is not over, we do have a lot more folks with immunity or vaccination. So, there is a little sense of safety to be able to do some doorknocking. Our kickoff event was getting our feet wet. Now, every single Deep Democracy member is trained up and we're getting folks from the community who want to walk with us. Each of us is a leader and we’re now helping other folks jump into start canvassing. We’re leading leaders to lead more leaders!


All photos taken by Cecilia Senocak.


Q. WHAT WERE SOME KEY THEMES YOU HEARD FROM NEIGHBORS WHILE CANVASSING? Housing has just been at the forefront of everything we do. It's hard to care about local politics if you're worried about where you're going to live next year, or whether you can even live in the County.

Our own City Council and elected officials in spaces we're trying to diversify are not able to even be here because of something that affects us like housing. That's why these spaces stay so white-dominated and so wealth-dominated. While canvassing, we noticed that a lot of younger white folks from like San Rafael were moving in. There’s an aspect of gentrification as folks from San Rafael are being pushed out of their own community due of housing costs, now coming into our community and pushing out our community members because the housing cost.

We also heard was some property managers seem to support some families over others. A señora I was talking to lived in her apartment for 10 years and said her rent has been increasing. Due to state of emergency declarations, we have some protections over what percentage of rent can be raised and have a feeling that this specific complex maybe has been violating that.

We also met a white family – I mention ethnicity because of the theme that I'm seeing here. Her family said they also faced significant rent increases, but the property owner was willing to work with them to help them make ends meet if they couldn't pay rent that month. It's interesting to see the difference between those two families: one Latinx family that's struggling to make it by not having this added resource, and a white family who felt supported by the same property manager during a financially difficult time. In the same complex, we're hearing about gentrification and that certain folks are being protected over others.

Q. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE TOGETHER AS A TASK FORCE? The goal for me is to get a diversity of folks in the Deep Democracy team. I want to make a statistically significant impact in our community, especially among the new American majority.

It’s not just doorknocking for elections. We do public comment, we turn out for school board and City Council meetings. We show up when there's a policy that's really important for keeping Sonoma County folks in their homes or protected from law enforcement, climate change and the climate crisis.

Q. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO LIFT UP? Just how amazing this crew is! I love that we really are multi-generational, interfaith, and really care about making sure that the folks who are affected are the folks at the front and being heard.

It takes a lot of courage to do this work, especially when we are burdened by all of the things that life gives us. When you're around a group of people who cares as equally as you do, you feel that sense of community and that sense of connection. And it makes me like have hope in even more motivation to strive for a future that I want to see for my own kiddo.

Q. HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED IN DEEP DEM? With Sonoma County facing unprecedented hardships – rising housing costs, climate crisis, and the impacts of a global pandemic it's important more than ever that we organize for a future for all of us, not just the wealthiest of us.

We launched our door-knocking campaign in April and will continue to ramp up throughout the year in an effort to build collective power.

If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, please contact Kimi Barbosa at kbarbosa@northbayop.org.

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